Most people with vitiligo need to take extra care of their skin in warmer weather because they are particularly vulnerable to sunburn. White skin patches have no natural protection against the sun's rays, unlike ‘normal’ skin which is protected by melanin (skin pigment). Unprotected vitiligo skin is highly likely to burn quickly. Not only is sunburn painful, but it might stimulate the vitiligo to spread in some people. Sunburn also increases the risk of skin cancer. We need some sunlight to keep healthy - it is our main source of Vitamin D, but skin needs to be protected from sun damage.
Use sunblock or sunscreen products
You need to choose a product which protects you from the ultraviolet light in the sun’s rays. There are two types of rays:
- UVA (long rays) penetrate deep into the skin and can cause dryness and wrinkles, as well as contributing to burning. The extent of protection against UVA rays is indicated by stars. Vitiligo skin requires at least 4 stars UVA protection ****
- UVB (medium rays) are the main cause of sunburn. The extent of protection against UVB rays is indicated by the Skin Protection Factor (SPF) number, which ranges from 2 to 50+. Vitiligo skin requires at least SPF 25.
Your sun protection product needs to be water-resistant or preferably waterproof if you are going in water. Remember that sun can penetrate water to a depth of 10 metres.
Take other measures…
To avoid burning it is important not to rely too much on sunblock. Some UV rays will go through any sunscreen. You can also protect your skin by wearing loose cotton clothes, a sunhat and sunglasses. Keep in the shade, especially at the hottest time of day (11am to 3pm). This is particularly important for children, and especially babies, whose skin is so delicate.